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October Blog: Reductions will have an impact

November 5 is quickly approaching and the 4.7-mill levy Forest Hills has placed on the ballot is crucial to help fund day-to-day operations of the school district. While it is uncomfortable to discuss what will happen in our district if the levy fails, I believe it is important to share more details so you are informed of the significant, negative impact that reductions will have on students, parents, staff and the community. 

If the operating levy fails in November 2019, the district must implement an additional $2.4 million in reductions to be able to request the same rate of 4.7-mills in 2020. These reductions would be necessary due to the lack of new collections in 2020. The $2.4 million in reductions is in addition to the $1.5 million cuts the district has already implemented. If a levy does not pass until 2020, the district cannot begin collections until 2021.

School districts are a people business and over 80% of our budget supports our staff members. If additional funding is not secured in 2019, approximately 30 staff positions - including administrators, teachers and support staff - will be eliminated. This level of reduction will affect each school and grade level, and the cuts will negatively impact the high-quality education and student experience that are FHSD hallmarks. 

Class sizes would increase district-wide, and the high level of personalization that students currently benefit from would no longer be achievable. Fewer staff members means reductions to specials programming at each of the district’s six elementary schools. At Nagel Middle School and at both high schools, course offerings would be reduced. Extracurricular and co-curricular offerings would also decrease while pay-to-play fees would increase. Transportation services are currently under review and will likely be reduced. 

It is important to note that the positions and programs reduced may never return to Forest Hills. 

These reductions are not threats; this is simply the reality we face. Forest Hills has a limited budget and without additional funding, reductions will be required. This is not the result of a spending issue, but rather a revenue issue as the state’s school funding model does not include inflation adjustments and it’s been seven years since the district received an increase in operating funds. 

If the levy passes, Forest Hills would be able to continue to provide high-quality education to students for a great value to residents. Forest Hills is among the top-performing school districts in the state, and is the only high-performing district in Hamilton County with below average spending. Forest Hills is below the Hamilton County average for residential property tax rate and cost per pupil, but above average in the state’s performance index. In comparison to districts of similar size, Forest Hills has the eighth-highest performance statewide and our students are undoubtedly prepared for their future. 

Forest Hills resides in a supportive community that has always valued public education. The schools belong to our community, which is why I want you to have the facts necessary to make an informed choice about the type of school district you want for the future. 

I look forward to continuing this important community conversation during the next month and I encourage you to visit our district website, or reach out to me directly, for more information.